Lemon Sunshine

Choosing our annual 25 Best Restaurants cover is not easy. We ooh and ahh over mouthwatering images of some of the finest food in the region—succulent lamb, veal, sushi and steak to name a few. Each dish is masterfully plated, paired and garnished by the chefs.

But several weeks ago, when I called photographer Laura Petrilla to discuss our food cover, I had something different in mind—dessert. (Well, truthfully, I’m always thinking about dessert!) “We haven’t done a ‘sweet’ cover in years,” I told Laura, who agreed to give it a shot.

Laura’s vision for the cover went beyond the usual dish-on-a-white-table-linen look. She wanted something organic and earthy with lots of natural light. Douglass Dick, chef and owner of Bona Terra in Sharpsburg, loved the concept and had just the confection to complete the picture: a luscious lemon tart.

The tart is made with homemade lemon curd and topped with organic berries and raspberry coulis, which accentuate the tart flavor. “It looks like sunshine,” Doug says. “I love the freshness and color.”

But Laura was just getting started. The perfect indulgence needed a picture-perfect setting. On a beautiful spring day, she and Doug drove to his childhood cabin in Venango County along French Creek. Doug selected a vintage plate with a flower and leaf design from the dozens of dishes that came with the house when his parents bought it in 1971.

Outside, the two gave new meaning to the phrase “down to earth.” Laura set the plate in the grass amid Little Bluet and Yellow Trout Lily wildflowers. The sunlight added a zest, richness and sparkle to Setting for our June 2010 cover shoot: "The cabin is a special
  place I go to get recharged," says Doug.the berries. Finally, Laura had her shot. Its simple beauty and elegance made this year’s cover choice an easy one.

For Doug, our cover shot also has sentimental significance. “My father, who recently passed away, truly enjoyed cooking, and this was one of his favorite desserts.”

Here’s to this year’s 25 Best! Pass the dessert menu, please.